History of Yunquera

Michelle Chaplow
The village of Yunquera.

History of Yunquera

A few shards of Roman pottery and coins suggest that a poor rustic villa was built at the bottom end of Calle Agua. The water engineering structures of today, which are associated with the Moorish period, are impressive and could have been based on a Roman plan.



After the invasion of 711 AD, the district supported three distinct communities. The pueblo of Yunquera seems to have been a Moorish creation, but evidence suggests that the old Christian Visigothic community was pushed into more remote fringe lands, inhabiting two smaller nearby settlements. They were located in Porticati, near the source of the Río Grande, and in Pereila, found to the northwest of the village. As the region is so barren, in all probability the latter community was a refugee settlement of Christians, originating from the confiscated fertile valleys. It is known that the Moorish conquerors tolerated Christianity, and Christians were allowed to carry on worship in remote religious churches, often cut into the rock.

When the Christian Umar Ben Hafsun took advantage of the Arabic division of the house of Omeyas in Córdoba in 899, the area came under the control of this breakaway Mozarabic kingdom. When Umar died in 917, his kingdom began to disintegrate and by 922 the immediate area was conquered back by Abd Al-Rahman III. Nearby fortified Bobastro did not fall until 928 and the remaining Christians seem to have been given an ultimatum of either converting or disappearing.

After this period Yunquera became the local seat of power and a castle was built in the village itself, on a cliff top. Further Berbers were settled in the area to pacify the Mozarabes. As the Moorish population grew, two smaller communities were established; Fontanilla, just south of the village by the Río Planos, and Algalaque 4km north of the village.

The village was fairly isolated from the Christian advances on Ronda in the 14th century but came directly in the firing line in 1485. The Christians made a major push from Antequera down to Alora and on the 25 April captured Coín. Unable to capture Málaga (which was not taken until 1487), they turned to Ronda and came up the road to Yunquera which was taken on 29 April 1485. Ronda was not to fall for a further month. The loss was to have an impact on the social structure throughout the region.

At the time of the conquest, the village was recorded at having 150 heads of families. This gives a rough estimate of 600 inhabitants, who had been ravaged by war and probable economic disruption. A castle was recorded in the present area of the Casco Antiguo (old town). Though it was refortified by the Christians, it was pulled down in 1498 under a royal decree, so that it could not be reused by the majority Moorish population in times of unrest. A minor nobleman, Diego de Barrasia, was granted the pueblo and surrounding lands in thanks for his military services, between 1485 and 1498. He also controlled further lands in the municipality of Alozaina. His appointment also enabled Spain to take control of the area in the name of Christ.

Documents survive from this period, which give us a detailed idea of the population, wealth and tributes owed by the village after the conquest. In 1488 the village came under the control of the newly conquered Málaga, splitting it for the first time from the administration of Ronda. A census in 1489 recorded 80 cows, 41 oxen, and 855 goats. The settlements of Porticate and Pereila are not recorded, which may suggest that these communities were by then deserted. A head count does not seem to have occurred until 1492, when the Moorish heads of family numbered 55. This suggested a population of 230-240 people, a fall of over 60 per cent in a seven year period. This decrease can be interpreted in two ways. Either huge ethnic cleansing and enslavement took place, or the figures are distorted by including/not including the settlements.

The year 1499 seems to have been an uneasy period for the village. A rebellion broke out in the whole of southern Spain, as a decree had been issued that all Moors were to convert to Christianity. By 1500 widespread conversion had taken place, with many rebels immigrating to North Africa. It is interesting to note from a census in 1499 that the Morisco heads of families dropped to 50. Along with the order to destroy the castle, this does suggest that some form of uprising took place here.

It has been calculated that after 1499 the village had 50 houses, of which 40 where held by Moriscos with Moorish traditions. The mosque was converted into the present day church and some defensive works were done, including a night watchman's tower. The village had two Muslim cemeteries, one of which was abandoned and the other one retained to this day. The ten Christian homesteads lived side by side with the Moriscos, producing wine, olives, cereals and cultivating woodland. As the settlements seem to have been deserted, so large tracks of land above 800 metres, which represents 57 per cent of the district, were abandoned. The village was big enough that in 1510 it was granted a separate parish, along with Tolox. This was after the creation of the new diocese of Málaga by the Bishop of Seville in 1505.

It seems that up to1569 the converts and the Christians had a workable existence. The majority Moriscos increased their homesteads in the village from 40 to 50. The Diego de Barrasa family still held the township and the surrounding districts such as Fontanilla. Troubles began when in 1560, the inquisition first visited. It returned in 1567-8 just when a major revolt broke out in Istan, which led to the civil war of 1568-70. The Duque de Arcos finally defeated the Moriscos in November 1570, at the battle of Frigiliana. This caused a huge shift in population as massive ethnic cleansing occurred. The village population was reduced to ten families, suggesting that at least half of the population were expelled to North Africa.

It seems that the remaining Moriscos who did not conform were finally expelled in 1616. So depopulated was the village that the Marques of Estepa was granted the village and its lands. It is recorded that he brought with him 15 Christian families from Estepa and others from the province of Badajoz. From this period onwards, a hospital monastery (see El Burgo )and various hermitages were established around the area to purify the land. The inquisition had an almost continual presence in the area and was located at Casa Grande in Calle Agua. Such was the importance of the pueblo that a coin issue was minted in the village in 1694.

Further religious zeal took hold in 1722, under the patronage of Don Leonardo Garcia of Hoyous and Juan Ruiz. They founded two hermitage churches in the pueblo, situated in Calle Calvario and another in the lower town. The village flourished and in 1850 the population stood at 4,057 living in 600 houses. So confident were the town's people that in 1845 they requested that the town (having gained independence in 1776) should break away from the control of Málaga and rejoin Ronda. The village argued that Ronda understood its economy of cattle, wine and olives far better than the seaport of Málaga. Today the village heads its own Comarcas (sub-region) of four villages (Alzaina, Casarabonela, El Burgo and Yunquera).

With the coming of modernisation and the improvement of living standards in more populous areas, so the village declined. Málaga was a great pull in the 19th century and in more recent times and with the expansion of the Costa del Sol, it has seen a modern emigration down to the coast.

The Natural Park was set up in1989 as a way of stimulating tourism and protecting this beautiful part of Spain.